Caleb’s Concepts: Sports data shows people value safety.


Caleb Garbuio, Editorial Page Editor

On Oct. 7, Yahoo Sports reported the Miami Dolphins obtained clearance to operate its stadium at full capacity. This is fantastic for the Dolphins organization and the Miami faithful, who now find themselves headed into a stadium that seats 65,236. But, the odds of contracting COVID-19 will increase substantially because many people remain skeptical that 65,000 fans will practice social distancing.

To make matters worse, COVID-19 fatigue seems to be setting in, and cases have increased in many states. Clearly, having 65,000 fans packed into a stadium will increase the COVID-19 transmission.

While this seems gloomy, recent data suggests that NFL fans will not be attending games at higher capacities. Based on data obtained from John Whitehead, participants ranked their willingness to attend NFL games given certain conditions. When analyzing this data through a level-level multivariate regression model controlling for price, income, mask requirements and stadium capacity, increasing the stadium capacity actually decreases people’s willingness to attend NFL games. Listed below is the equation:

Games = b0 + b1 price  + b2 capacity + b3 income +b4 mask + e 

When the data is organized via ordinary least squares, we are given an equation with the following parameters. 

                                                                     Games = 2.025435 – 0.003331price – 0.00831capacity + .002355

                                                                     income + .829174masks + e

The data tells us that a one percentage point increase results in an increased attendance of .008 games. While it may seem insignificant this margin increases when we increase percentage points by a factor of ten. When combined with other variables like mask requirements, this results in boosted fan engagement. So what will this look like for the Dolphins?

YahooSports states that the Dolphins will only allow 13,000 fans into the stadium or 20% capacity. Fans are still required to wear masks, so we will do a simple calculation to find out how many Dolphins games fans will actually attend. To find the response for a typical consumer we will use the median and the mean which are tools to find the middle of the data’s distribution . The average income is $103.1, while the median income is $87.5 in thousands of dollars versus $98.39 and $100 for ticket price. 

The impact of these precautions will result in the average fan attending to 2.56 and 2.6 matches, which we will round to three. Why is this important?

Because it highlights that people value the importance of safety precautions during COVID. People value safety precautions as evidenced by the attendance decline. Had the Miami Dolphins not implemented sensible safety precautions, they would have seen a reduction in attendance of approximately 1.6 matches. That is a huge chunk of cash that is lost without sensible distancing regulations.

Listed below are the regression results:


    Min      1Q  Median      3Q     Max 

-2.8924 -1.5259 -0.5089  1.1370  6.6819 


             Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)    

(Intercept)  2.025435   0.238098   8.507  < 2e-16 ***

price0      -0.003331   0.001358  -2.453   0.0144 *  

capacity    -0.008311   0.004191  -1.983   0.0477 *  

income       0.002355   0.001227   1.920   0.0553 .  

     mask         0.829174   0.137627   6.025 2.63e-09 ***

Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

Residual standard error: 1.911 on 767 degrees of freedom

Multiple R-squared:  0.06095, Adjusted R-squared:  0.05606 

F-statistic: 12.45 on 4 and 767 DF,  p-value: 8.172e-10